The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed an appeal filed by the Centre, challenging the acquittal of government employees under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988, and observed that there was a total delay of 647 days to challenge the order of High Court of Chhattisgarh, Bilaspur.
The Bench of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice MR Shah further observed that explanation in condonation of delay application by the Centre does not contain sufficient or material reasons to consider the appeal.
ASG Aishwarya Bhati stated that the ground for delay is due to COVID-19. However, the bench further observed that the judgement of High Court was delivered on June 26, 2019, which was earlier than the onset of COVID, which does not justify and was insufficient to condone the delay.
The bench directed the CBI to ensure that no delay occurs in filing of an appeal. The Court also directed that necessary administrative steps be taken by CBI to ensure that filing and other steps be monitored on respective platform, so that such delay does not occur.
The conviction order was passed by the Special Judge, CBI, Raipur, District Raipur (CG) under Sections 120-B, 420 read with Section 120-B, 471 read with Section 468 of IPC and Section 13(2) r/w Section 13(1) (d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 read with Section 120-B of IPC.
The allegations upon these five persons (working in South Eastern Coalfields Limited, a subsidiary of Coal India Ltd) was that some bills to the tune of Rs 6,04,831 were allegedly paid to the firm National Trade Center, Kolkata. However, the Special Judge CBI did not consider whether all the appellants agreed to prepare forged document and committed cheating against SECL and thereby, committed offence of conspiracy. Further, how and who opened the account in which the money was transferred.
The High Court, while acquitting the five persons, observed that it is not established as to who really opened the account in the name of National Trade Centre and who has withdrawn the amount, therefore, it cannot be said that each department has done illegal act for the benefit of unknown person.
There is nothing on record to say that any of the appellant was connected with the person who opened the account and withdrew the amount, therefore, conspiracy as defined in Section 120-A of the IPC is missing in the present case.
The High Court further observed that if misconduct is done within the institution by any of the officer, the institution is free to take action against the erring officer, but in absence of evidence of criminal mind set up, liability for criminal act cannot be fastened.